With recent advances in canine dental care, some dog owners want help in correcting or repairing non-genetic defects. As responsible dog owners, we must ask ourselves whether tampering with a dog’s mouth – beyond routine care to keep him happy and healthy – is something we should attempt.
Ethics of Certified Animal Orthodontists
While there are only a few dozen certified canine dentists in North America, all are concerned about the question of ethics. The general consensus is:
“ Every dog is entitled to a healthy mouth. But not every dog is entitled to a perfect one. Orthodontics should not be performed on a dog that is not neutered if there’s a hereditary factor involved.”
Despite the availability of advanced dental treatment, no veterinarian wants to be held responsible for helping to ruin a breed. However, if the surgery is required as a result of an accidental injury, most vets feel very comfortable in providing corrective treatment.
Genetic Dental Problems Plague Some Breeds
With breeds in which a non-conforming jaw is desirable, for example, Pugs and Bulldogs, veterinarians stress that owners should pay particular attention to teeth. With these breeds, the natural cleaning motion that occurs when one tooth properly interlocks with the other is virtually eliminated.
While a non-conforming bite (an over-shot or undershot jaw) is desirable in some breeds, in others it is considered a deformity. The dog, and possibly its sire, dam and littermates, should immediately be eliminated from a breeding program.
If your show dog, or a dog used in a breeding program, has missing teeth and you want to look into a possible implant, be forewarned. At licensed conformation shows you’ll be required to provide documented proof that a vet extracted the tooth or lost as a result of trauma.
Crooked or Tilted Teeth
Some clients seek out the services of a veterinary orthodontist to correct severely crooked or tilted teeth. Believe it or not, it is possible for dogs to wear appliances (braces) just as you may have as a youngster!
Be aware that the procedure can cause discomfort for your dog, your pocketbook, and your veterinarian if you’re not committed to seeing things through.
When a dog has an appliance, it needs to be fed a soft food. He or she needs twice-daily tooth brushing and bi-weekly or weekly rechecks. The treatment potentially lasts several months and cost well over $1,000.
Whitening teeth is another area that brings ethics into focus. Discoloration of a single tooth is often the result of infection resulting from trauma. In these cases, the tooth cannot be whitened. The dog will first need a root canal and internal whitening or a crown. In this type of case, alleviation of pain, not having pearly whites, should be our
We Are Our Canines’ Caretakers
Regardless of the dental problem, as canine caretakers we must understand that dogs feel the pain of an abscess or toothache with the same intensity we do. It is not something we can ignore. Whenever you notice something wrong in your dog’s mouth it is your moral obligation to seek a veterinarian’s advice. Warning signs to watch for include redness of the gum line, a small lesion, or a cracked or missing tooth.
While corrective orthodontic surgery for dogs is not widely available in North America, it is becoming more common. Many veterinarians have a fascination with teeth and are learning advanced dental procedures. For the alleviation of pain and suffering in our canine companions, it is an aspect of veterinary practice whose time has come. But it may also make dog buying and breeding of certain breeds more than ever an example of “Buyer Beware.”
Article submitted by: © Terri Perrin